Friday, January 7, 2011

The Silent Revolutionaries

I'm a nobody to comment upon, write about, or even praise them. But I often feel so overwhelmed simply knowing about their greatness and foresight, that I cannot help myself. It is astounding how one family can give so much to a country, in face of every struggle that it faces along with it.

We all, as Indians, claim authority over the brand of Tatas - its our brand, the brand of India. As children, we went in a schoolbus made by the Tatas, and now as grownups, some of us are employed with them. But if truth be told, the brand is so vast and so multifaceted, that most of us don't know what all the tatas have given to this nation. Now, while doing an internship in one of their companies, I realise the full scope of it.

Those who live in Bangalore would know that the Indian Institute is called Tata Institute, it was Jamsetji Tata's brainchild. Do you know how it was established? Jamsetji Tata got a proposal drafted for its establishment and gave to the British Government in 1898, he called in a Nobel Laureate from U.K. to study the country and suggest a good location for its establishment, he even went to the extent of donating half of his personal wealth (14th buildings and 4 landed properties in Bombay). The proposal however, was approved in 1909, 5 years after the death of Jamsetji. At that time, an institute of such splendour didn't exist in UK itself. It must been gutsy on his part to imagine making such an institute in India, a nation colonialised by U.K.

While the nation rotted in dominion, the Tatas foresaw that Iron and Steel will become the foundation of future industry and economy, and they established the Tata Iron and Steel Company, making India's first Steel Plant in Jamshedpur. They convinced industrialists to just use the hydel power they wanted to make, because they saw future in hydroelectricity in India. Consequently, they set up India's first hydel power plant in Bombay.

Another Tata landmark, literally, is the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay, which opened for business in 1903. Legend has it that Jamsetji Tata set his mind on building it after being denied entry into one of the city's fancy hotels for being an Indian. Today Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces own and operate 76 hotels, 7 palaces, 6 private islands and 12 resorts and spas, spanning 52 destinations in 12 countries across 5 continents and employ over 13000 people.

Tata Airlines, the first airline of India which they established in 1932, was the forerunner of Air India, later nationalised by the Government of India. JRD Tata himself flew the maiden flight from Karachi to Bombay. Such was the punctuality and efficiency of Air India in those days that a man standing on an airport in UK once said, Oh an Air India flight has landed, must be 8:00 AM.

Tata Steel introduced eight-hour working days in 1912, well before it became statutory in much of the West, and the first Tata provident fund scheme was started in 1920 (governmental regulation on this came into force in 1952). Way back in 1902, Jamsetji Tata planned Jamshedpur, a 'city for workers' of the planned Tata Steel Plant, which he wanted to be laid with wide streets planted with shady trees, and with plenty of space for lawns and gardens, large areas reserved for football, hockey and parks, and even areas earmarked for temples, mosques and churches. They were way ahead of their times, even in caring for their employees.

And now, in the wake of liberalisation, as India Inc. is coming of age, Ratan Tata goes on to take over a global steel giant, bringing Tata Steel from the 56th largest producer of steel in the world to be the fifth largest one. With quite a few takeovers which were heard all over the world, the group has given India a global standing like no other. In a pessimistic population which firmly believes that it can do nothing on its own, he launched the Tata Indica, India's first indigenous car. Against the cynicism of the world and the passive belief of Indians themselves - 'India mein kuch original nahi hota' - he urged the talents of this very country to launch the Nano and Swach, innovations in their own right.

This list will never end, as won't the Tata adventure, lets hope. None of the governments were liberal, or even fair to them. But inch by inch, they made their way through to the brighter side where things they believed in were possible. Without bending the rules of law and morality, going out of the way in taking responsibility of their stakeholders, they launched a series of firsts in this country. They were the giants who touched tomorrow. The visionaries who, when our leaderes fought for a free India, were slowly, silently and surely creating an India worth living in.

Note: The facts written have been taken/verified from several sources, chief among which are and the book 'Beyond the Last Blue Mountain' by R M Lala


Anonymous said...

Good one, Radha!

prateeksays said...

A really nice perspective with well researched out facts!

Harshad Mundhada said...

Seems like written by a journalist with all the research!! :-) good one!!

Radha said...

@ Anon, Prateek, Harshad: Thanks!
@ Anon: why praise anonymously? :D
@ Harshad: :O tune comment kiya! I'm honoured :)